‘Too Naive or Too Stupid’
On Sunday, acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly flew to Guam in the Philippine Sea to speak directly to the crew of the USS Theodore Roosevelt, an aircraft carrier that moored there after detecting dozens of cases of the COVID-19 novel coronavirus onboard. When a letter from Crozier to Navy leaders begging for help fighting the virus was leaked to the press last week, Crozier came under fire and was eventually removed from command on Thursday.
“If he didn't think, in my opinion, that this information wasn't going to get out into the public, in this day and information age that we live in, then he was either A, too naive, or too stupid to be a commanding officer of a ship like this,” Modly told the Roosevelt’s crew on Sunday. “The alternative is that he did this on purpose. And that's a serious violation of the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] which you are all familiar with.”
Modly continued, saying Crozier’s actions were a “betrayal of trust” of him, the chain of command and the crew.
Modly’s comments were later confirmed by a Navy spokesperson.
Task & Purpose also published a recording of the speech, revealing just how furious the Roosevelt’s crew was with Modly’s condemnations.
“What the f**k?!” says one crew member after Modly calls Crozier “stupid.”
“He was trying to help us!” yells another during the speech. At least 155 members of the crew have tested positive for COVID-19, including Crozier himself.
In his letter to Navy Personnel Command, Crozier pleaded for help finding adequate quarters in which to quarantine most of his 4,000-member crew until they could all be tested for COVID-19 and the ship’s interior could be thoroughly decontaminated.
“We are not at war. Sailors do not need to die,” Crozier wrote. “If we do not act now, we are failing to properly take care of our most trusted asset - our sailors.”
‘Do Your Jobs’
Modly continued his assault on the fired captain, but also chastised the crew for cheering Crozier on when he departed the ship on Friday.
“I understand you love the guy. It's good that you love him. But you're not required to love him,” Modly said. "Crew of the Teddy Roosevelt, you are under no obligation to love your leadership, only respect it. You are under no obligation to like your job, only to do it. You are under no obligation, you are under no obligation to expect anything from your leaders other than they will treat you fairly and put the mission of the ship first."
“That is your duty - not to complain. Everyone is scared about this thing. And let me tell ya something, if this ship was in combat and there were hypersonic missiles coming in at it, you'd be pretty f**king scared too. But you do your jobs. And that's what I expect you to. And that's what I expect every officer on this ship to do, is to do your jobs.”
The acting Navy secretary also attacked Crozier’s characterization of the crisis. In his letter, which was obtained and published by the San Francisco Chronicle early last week, Crozier notably observed that “we are not at war.”
“Let me tell ya something, the only reason we are dealing with this right now is a big authoritative regime called China was not forthcoming about what was happening with this virus, and they put the world at risk to protect themselves and to protect their reputations. We don’t do that in the Navy.”
Backlash Rages in Washington
US President Donald Trump, who is the armed forces’ commander in chief, has voiced support for Crozier’s termination, as has Defense Secretary Mark Esper. However, one US official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Reuters on Monday that Pentagon officials, including Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Michael Gilday, had recommended against firing Crozier before an investigation had been completed.
Likewise, Democratic presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden condemned the move, saying Modly had "shot the messenger."
After Modly announced Crozier’s removal on Thursday, Democratic lawmakers in Washington wrote to acting Defense Department Inspector General Glenn Fine, urging him to open an inquiry into it.
"It appears a prima facie case for retaliation by the Navy against Captain Crozier may have been established," wrote Reps. Ted Lieu (D-CA) and Ruben Gallego (D-AZ). "We urge you to open an investigation into this matter as soon as possible." Fifteen lawmakers cosigned the letter.
Modly raged over this as well, saying Crozier had caused a “big controversy in Washington, DC,” and created the image of “a martyr CO [commanding officer], who wasn't getting the help he needed.”
An online petition on Change.org seeking Crozier’s reinstatement has quickly gone viral. As of this article’s publication, more than 253,000 people had signed the petition, which has a stated goal of 300,000 signatures.